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Now that I've visited the Tokyo Disney theme parks, Efteling in The Netherlands is the theme park I've not yet visited that I most want to see. One of the big reasons is Fata Morgana, an indoor boat ride that recreates scenes from 1,001 Arabian Nights.
I first heard of Fata Morgana from industry legend Bob Rogers, who asked me if I could name the three theme park rides without a happy ending. I got Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (we end up in Hell), and the original, pre-Johnny Depp Pirates of the Caribbean (where the pirates are about to blown to smithereens). But I couldn't name the third. And that's when Bob told me about Fata Morgana.
Fata Morgana opened in 1986, set in a Moroccan-style palace across a reflecting pool from the park's entrance. Once inside, you board via a turntable, which directs your boat into a jungle-like scene. From there, a wizard appears, who shows you the way into the forbidden Arabian city. Here's a video of the ride, which includes some nice shots of the surrounding area. Skip to 4:45 if you want to go straight onto the ride.
The key to appreciating this ride is to see yourself as the protagonist. You're wandering the marketplace in the forbidden city, a place where you don't belong. But you're caught, and taken away to a sentence of hard labor. Then the wizard reappears, and blasts your way out of the prison, into the harbor of the city where the king's barge awaits.
So do you hitch a ride out of the forbidden city, getting away to safety? Heck, no! The party's just starting. You sail on, into the palace, where you join the party in the king's harem. Not satisfied with the ladies, you press on, into the king's treasure room.
Hey, what's the big guy there? Why did everything go dark? Is that a big snake up ahead? Must not look into his eyes…
And the ride's over.
Confused? Let's think of the Fata Morgana this way: Remember the end of The Sopranos? How everything just went black? Well, like Tony Soprano, you just got whacked.
Hey, it's one thing to sneak into the king's city. Or his palace. Or even into his harem. But you most definitely do not get to mess with the king's cash. Touch the money, and you're gonna pay.
Even though I've never been there, this ride makes me love Efteling for just trying it. Not every theme park attraction needs to end on a sticky-sweet note. I love to see rides serve up a little darkness, now and then.Tweet
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